Blues 2009-10 junior prospects update

By Robby Lewis

The St. Louis Blues have nine players in the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL right now, and none of them are underachieving. They are all off to reasonably fast starts.

Forwards

Philip McRae, C — London Knights (OHL)
Acquired: 2nd round, 33rd overall, 2008
3-15-1990, 6’2, 189 pounds

No one is questioning the Blues selection of the 19-year-old from St. Louis anymore. He is tied for the lead with points for the London Knights right now with 19 in 21 games, and he continues to be a force on the ice. He is next to impossible to get off the puck, and looks determined to become a power forward. He never shies away from physical play, and the one knock he had, his skating, is not mentioned anymore. In order to prepare for the NHL, McRae must continue to do what he’s been doing: improve.

Anthony Nigro, C — Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Acquired: 6th round, 155th overall, 2008
1-11-1990, 6’0, 189 pounds

The strong center has 17 points in 15 games, and has destroyed the reputation of being a grinder. He has just four penalty minutes this season, but still is not afraid to get physical. Being able to stay disciplined is one thing that Nigro has learned, and his team has paid instant dividends. The most impressive thing that Nigro has showed improvement on is his selflessness. He is still more than willing to take a lot of shots, but he is also looking to pass the puck more. His vision is great. The only thing to watch out for is it makes a huge difference on the style of play in a game. Nigro is much more effective in a fast-paced game. When the game slows down, he has a hard time keeping tempo.

Ian Schultz, RW — Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2008
2-4-1990, 6’1, 179 pounds

Consistency is the name of Schultz’s game. Every night the Hitmen ask Schultz to do his job, and he does just that. The team has high scorers, and while Schultz has the ability to put the puck in the net, it is what he does without the puck that makes him most valuable. He leads the team with 49 penalty minutes, and is the one who stands up for his teammates. Schultz also does a great job with his fore-checking, and he can catch up to defenders when need be. Seventeen points in 23 games isn’t half bad either.

James Livingston, RW — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Acquired: 3rd round, 70th overall, 2008
3-8-1990, 6’1, 200 pounds

Considered possibly the biggest disappointment for the Blues in junior hockey last season, Livingston has bounced back with a great start this season. The swift forward had only 37 points in 66 games last season, which is not good for a player with as heavy of a shot as Livingston. This season, he has 10 goals and eight assists in 19 games. Perhaps the bigger issue is Livingston’s improvement on the defensive side of the ice. Livingston had a -26 rating last season and has a +7 rating so far this season, the second best on the team. Some of this is the improvement of the team, but some his own improvement.

Tyler Shattock, RW — Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Acquired: 4th round, 108th overall, 2009
2-10-1990, 6’2, 190 pounds

Shattock’s offensive performance came out of nowhere last season to make him the Blues fourth-round choice. This season, he is not disappointing. Thirty points in 22 games has made Shattock the team’s point leader and go-to guy. On a team that does not put a lot of emphasis on defense, Shattock does all he can to make the team better. He does not miss assignments, and his individual offense allows the team to not worry as much on defense. Because of the huge jump in points Shattock had last season, it was reasonable to think that his offense could start to diminish. Shattock has made those thoughts disappear.

Defensemen

Brett Ponich — Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Acquired: 2nd round, 48th overall, 2009
2-22-1991, 6’6, 204 pounds

The tall, rangy defenseman has taken steps becoming a better skater this season. He is much better on odd-man rushes, and actually looks capable of keeping up with faster skaters. As long as he’s close to them, his long reach will be enough to make up for a slower stride. His offense has improved as well, notching 10 points in 24 games. He is -2, which is tied for the second worst plus/minus on the team. Ponich is durable and playing with confidence and some nastiness so far this season.

David Shields — Erie Otters (OHL)
Acquired: 6th round, 168th overall, 2009
1-27-1991. 6’3, 216 pounds

Shields was the last of three defensemen that the Blues chose in the 2009 draft. This season, Shields has kept up his reputation of being a solid stay-at-home defenseman. He has six points in 22 games, which is fine for his role. He is very strong on the puck, and good at clearing it out of the zone. His passing is one aspect that the Otters would like to see improved, but the most important thing for Shields is to keep doing what he’s doing. There is a surplus of defensemen in the Blues system, and Shields just adds depth to the list.

Mark Cundari — Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Acquired: Free agent, 2009
4-23-1990, 5’10, 200 pounds

The Blues signed Cundari as a free agent for his offense. While he has 24 points in 25 games, it is important to know that Cundari plays on a high-offensive team. However, he has looked good on defense this year. He is rarely on the ice when an opposing goal is scored, and he has done a solid job at blocking shots this season. He does not have a long reach, but he stays responsible on his own end and he displays good passing ability. If the team started to play a more defensive game, Cundari would still be a player worth having.

Goaltenders

Jake Allen –Montreal Juniors (QMJHL)
Acquired: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2008
8-7-1990 6’2, 175 pounds

No matter how his team is doing, Allen remains consistent. He continues to make the saves he’s supposed to, but he also comes up with the highlight reel ones at times. His 6-8-1 record and 2.71 GAA is more of a display of his team’s play, but it would be good if he can improve his .909 save percentage. The biggest knock on Allen so far has been the fact that he has not been stealing games for the Juniors like he did last year. He must find ways to be the best player on the ice when his team is not play their best. This is something No. 1 goaltenders have to learn to do, and this is what Allen aims to be.